In two home matches in June, Las Vegas Lights FC twice tallied a season-high four goals en route to a pair of victories. Now, that success has to translate to the road (Pictured: Lights FC players celebrate 4-1 victory over Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at Cashman Field on June 2, 2018 – Photo credit: L.E. Baskow / Lights FC).
The club will play 8 of its next 10 matches away from the confines of Cashman Field, beginning Sunday at 2 p.m., when Lights FC (4-5-4, 16 points) faces perennial USL Western Conference power Swope Park Rangers (7-4-4, 25 points) at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan. The match will stream nationwide on ESPN+.
It will be the second of two regular season meetings between the clubs, with Lights FC having come from behind to take a 2-1 decision in Downtown Las Vegas back on March 31.
“It’s a very good team, well managed, they know what to do, and we are expecting to face the best Swope Park Rangers,” Lights FC Head Coach Isidro Sánchez said. “It’s a very fast, quick, attacking team. They have excellent attackers up front, and we have to be very aware defensively.”
Lights FC’s defensive back line will have a bit of a different look Sunday, as captain Joel Huiqui will miss the match, serving a 1-game suspension for yellow card accumulation.
No matter what Sánchez and the coaching staff opt to do to fill that void in the centerback spot, the defense will have its hands full against Swope Park.
While Rangers’ 22 goals is tied for the 7th-highest total in the USL this season, its ability to create chances is second to none, as the club leads the league in passes (8,037) and passing accuracy (83%).
The speed up top that Sánchez referred to is highlighted by forwards Kharlton Belmar and Hadji Barry, who have combined to score 13 goals this season. Belmar’s 8 goals are tied for the highest individual total in the USL.
Even though the first meeting between the two teams wasn’t a high-scoring affair, should this one go in that direction, Lights FC may be heading to Kansas City for it at just the right time.
The club is coming off of arguably its best offensive performance of the season last Saturday night against Seattle Sounders 2 – a 4-1 victory which saw Lights FC also come close to putting several more balls into the back of the net.
“We’ve just got to go out there and take this momentum from home onto the road,” said forward Sammy Ochoa, who scored two of Lights FC’s four goals last Saturday night. “Their style of play is always the same, and it’s effective. Stats don’t lie.”
A win could go a long way in kick-starting a lengthy stretch of road matches on the 2018 schedule. Lights FC currently finds itself just four points outside of the Top-8 on the Western Conference table, and another trip to the midwest awaits next Saturday night to take on Tulsa Roughnecks FC in June’s final match.
And while Lights FC looks to take positive momentum onto the road, Swope Park Rangers is coming to its home pitch looking to regain some, as it absorbed a 4-1 defeat on the road last weekend at Fresno FC.
It all adds up to what could be one of the most intriguing match-ups on the Week 15 USL slate.
“The biggest motivation they have has to be last Saturday against Fresno,” Sánchez said. “In professional football, it’s dangerous to face a team who was beaten in the previous week. With their quality, it will be difficult for them to play again like they did against Fresno.”
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